Two years ago I had a very special little treat for everyone when St. Patrick’s Day came rolling around. It was a wonderfully weird little story where the X-Men went to visit Banshee’s ancestral home, Cassidy Keep, and they got involved in a goofy Scooby-Doo-esque plot involving Black Tom Cassidy and the Juggernaut. Oh, and Leprechauns. There were a lot of leprechauns. See, this one story introduced the idea that Banshee’s family castle is full of a race of leprechauns. This plot thread was never really picked back up, and remains one of the oddest adventures that the X-Men have ever been on. And that’s saying something. It became a weird little footnote in the history of the X-Men, and Marvel Comics in general, and it basically never came up again. I don’t know if Chris Claremont intended to do something with these leprechauns, or at least explain them, but it never happened. Which is a shame, because I of course wanted to look into these leprechauns and find out more about them. Which proved difficult, since it was almost never brought up again. But, I said almost. It turns out that the Leprechauns of Cassidy Keep only made one other appearance in the history of the X-Men. And that’s what we’ll be discussing today. I’m not quite sure where this story fits into the canon of the X-Men, since it’s from a short-lived series called Uncanny X-Men: First Class, which were a series of light and entry-level stories about the X-Men. But, regardless of where this story sits in the history of the X-Men, it’s still about Banshee, Colossus, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler solving a leprechaun murder. And of course a story like that is going to be one I have to share with you.
The story begins on a dark and stormy night at Cassidy Keep. Unlike the previous story, where the leprechauns were kind of a surprise to everyone involved, this story shows us a world where the Cassidy family are fully aware of the society of leprechauns that live in their castle, and embrace them. So, things start off with the human caretaker of Cassidy Keep, Eamon O’Donnell walking the halls at night, making sure everything is as it should be. And, of course, it isn’t. Because when Eamon gets into the library he ends up finding the body of one of the leprechaun elders, a man named Finnian. Eamon doesn’t know what to do about the death of one of the most prominent leprechauns in the Keep, so he gives Sean Cassidy, the Banshee, a call and asks for his advice. Banshee then gets a couple of his teammates, Wolverine, Colossus, and Nightcrawler to hop onto the Blackbird and jet on over to Ireland to see if they can help Eamon out with the death. And, when they get there, Banshee immediately starts to feel like something strange is afoot. Namely, he thinks that this may have been murder.
Banshee was apparently very close to Finnian, and he can’t believe that the old leprechaun would ever kill himself like this. Even though they do have a suicide note that appears to be in his handwriting. Banshee tells his friends about Finnian, shows off a little pen-knife he gave him as a child, and swears that he’s going to get to the bottom of this death. Sean then begins investigating, and quickly starts finding some sketchy details about the death. Namely, it appears that the cause of death was from poisoning. Specifically from chamomile tea, because chamomile is apparently lethal to leprechauns, something that Finnian would obviously know. And, since Finnian’s mug appears to be apricot wine spiked with chamomile, it certainly seems suspicious.
Sean then heads out to find the source of this chamomile, and ends up getting another clue. Because as Sean and his fellow X-Men leave the crime-scene they come across another leprechaun named Conall, who runs a small museum in the Keep, and he’s come across something mysterious. There’s a special ring that the leprechauns of Cassidy Keep have been tasked with caring for, which once belonged to Liam Cassidy, Sean’s ancestor. Liam was a great human warrior, who made peace with the leprechauns in order to battle a common foe, the Sidhe villain Craeliach. Craeliach was a powerful sorcerer who tormented the Irish people, until Liam and the leprechauns defeated him, using the ring as a symbol of their lasting peace. And it appears that someone has stolen it. And it seems pretty personal.
So yeah, things are getting even weirder. But, Sean doesn’t have time to worry about the missing familial ring, because he needs to track down the source of the deadly chamomile. And there’s only one place in the Keep where such a thing may be. The apothecary of Owen McGuinness. He carries all sorts of rare ingredients, including chamomile. Oh, and he was also one of the few leprechauns to truly hate Finnian, since they both tried to woo the same woman back in their youth, and Finnian won her affections. Owen is very wary about Sean and his questions, but he decides to comply with them, and brings the X-Folk into his storeroom to look for the chamomile. In the storeroom they come across Owen’s grandson Declan, who takes them in to look for the chamomile. There’s just one problem. The chamomile is missing.
Things are certainly starting to look pretty suspicious, and Sean doesn’t have a lot of clues, so he and the X-Men continue to investigate. They then head to the Keep’s kitchens, where they speak with the woman who brought Finnian his apparently poisoned wine the previous night, but she swears that she has no idea how the chamomile could have been slipped in. Although, she does point out that a few nights ago she overheard Owen McGuiness and Finnian arguing. And with this information, Sean decides that he has enough information to start figuring things out. So, Sean and his friends head into Finnian’s library, and start going over the clues. Which is when Sean announces he wants to make things a little more dramatic, and decides to call all of the leprechauns together and have a good old-fashioned parlor room reveal.
The X-Men then get into their costumes…for some reason, and bring all of he leprechauns who are involved in the death into library that night, lit only by a fireplace for added drama. Sean then starts laying everything out for the leprechauns. He mentions that some of them are scared by the fact that the Liam Cassidy ring is missing, seemingly a sign that Craeliach could be reborn. He also points out that this could have been a killing of jealousy from Owen McGuinness. But he doesn’t think that Finnian was killed due to some ancient curse of petty jealous. He thinks Finnian was killed because he stumbled upon someone’s deepest, darkest secret. Specifically, Declan’s.
Sean explains that because the storeroom was dark and dusty, and nothing had labels on them, that only someone who was familiar with the apothecary could have been the ones to steal the chamomile, meaning either Owen or Declan. He then went over Finnian’s “suicide note” and noticed something peculiar. While the handwriting is right, the grammar is off. And, with that red-flag, Sean was able to realized that the first letter of every sentence spelled out “DECLAN” a clue left by Finnian to point out his killer. And why would Declan want to kill kindly old Finnian? Well, it turns out that Declan has a pretty big secret.
Yep. Declan is actually one of the Sidhe, the ancient enemies of the leprechauns. Well, half-Sidhe. Declan’s father was a Sidhe, and his mother was forced to keep Declan’s real race a secret, and his grandfather Owen helped her. Declan then spent an entire lifetime with the leprechauns, being told that his people are horrible monsters, becoming increasingly bitter. He then decided to research a path to power, and ended up learning about the power of the ring of Liam Cassidy. And, while doing so, he ended up garnering the attention of Finnian. So, the keep his bloodline and lust for power a secret, Declan forced Finnian to write a suicide note and killed him, completely unaware of Finnian’s secret message.
And Declan isn’t going to let Sean Cassidy stop him. Because he’s done his research, and it turns out that when the blood of a Cassidy touches the ring, the power of Craeliach will be given to the wearer of the ring. And when Sean cut his hand on the broken lantern in the storeroom, Declan got that blood. He then combines the two, and is given the massive magical might of Craeliach. And he uses that magic to mentally control every single leprechaun in the Keep, forcing them to become his zombie slaves, and forcing them to attack the X-Men, who are caught pretty off-guard. Declan and the leprechauns then begin assaulting the X-Men, who are unfortunately unable to harm any of the leprechaun since they’re innocents. And, to make things more difficult, Declan is also able to mentally control a bunch of trolls and ogres, who come barreling into the keep to fight the rest of the X-Men. Things then quickly start to fall apart, and Banshee decides he needs to think fast. He realizes that the key to Declan’s power is that damned ring, so he figures he needs to get rid of it. He then picks up the pen-knife that he gave Finnian as a child, and uses his super-sonic shout to fire the knife at Declan, striking the ring so hard it shatters. Declan’s powers then fade, and Banshee is able to knock the little Sidhe out, allowing the other leprechauns to bring him to justice. The X-Men then go to Finnian’s funeral, and head home while questioning their own mortality.
This story is a whole lot of fun. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t overly familiar with this series, and based on the cover I kind of expected this to be a more kid-oriented series. But then I started reading the story and it opens up with apparent leprechaun suicide, and I quickly got a feel for the vibe this story was putting out. I’m not quite sure why they decided to end this short-lived series with an insane neo-noir where Sean Cassidy used his police deduction skills in order to prove that his leprechaun mentor didn’t kill himself. And that’s just so wonderfully insane. The issue is actually a really well-constructed murder mystery, with enough clues to actually hold together better than most single-issue mysteries tend to. It’s a little weird that this issue just created a whole slew of leprechaun continuity out of nowhere, but since Claremont never revisited the Leprechauns of Cassidy Keep I guess they had no choice but to invent it all whole-cloth. I really would love if the X-Men would continue to occasionally check in one these leprechauns, if only so I could keep writing about these insane stories. But, if this is destined to be the final time we see the leprechauns that live in Sean Cassidy’s family’s castle, then so be it. They certainly went out with a bang. So, this St. Patrick’s Day I highly recommend taking another trip to the emerald shores of Cassidy Keep to see the X-Men begrudgingly fighting some leprechauns.
Uncanny X-Men: First Class #8, “The Curse of Craeliach” was written by Scott Gray, penciled by Fernando Blanco, and lettered by Nate Piekos, 2010.
Categories: Marvel Madness